Around 10 pm almost every alternate day, Ahmedabad’s west zone becomes abuzz with activity. The most preferred destination for party-goers has seen a different group of youngsters gather recently: tree-lovers.
While revellers party through the night and the rest of the city sleeps, these young collegians and professionals—armed with hammers, ladders and pluckers—go from tree to tree in a particular area zeroed for that night pulling out advertisement boards and banners nailed to the trunks and branches.
Ask why, and pat comes the reply: “The question should be ‘Why should we not do it?’”
Ritesh Sharma, a founding-member of Highly Energised Youth for Helping Indians (HeyHI), says by removing the nails, they add years to the trees’ lives.
“It is general knowledge that the rust that a nail gathers spreads poison in trees reducing its life by many years,” he explains.
“Tree plantation is a good idea but where is the place left in cities? So we rather try to save the existing trees that may not survive the full life owing to man-made reasons,” he says.
HeyHI, which takes up social projects, launched the Rescue Tree drive in October. In two months, they have covered over 2,800 trees and removed nearly 100 kg of nails.
While the drive happens at night on weekdays, on weekends they do it during the day. WhatsApp and Facebook act as media of communication, and once a message is sent, in no time the youngsters gather at the mentioned place and time.
However, the drive has not been easy.
“Every time we go out, we carry with us the permission letter from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation granting permission for the drive as sometimes people oppose when we remove their illegal advertisements,” says Harsh Suthar, a 23-year-old student.
HeyHI also found that in west zone, one of the five in Ahmedabad, the number of damaged and mutilated trees stood at around 24,000. The figure was reached through an informal survey conducted based on pictures of trees having advertisements sent by volunteers.
While they cover about 70 trees between 10 pm and 1 am removing about 25 big nails, the number remains as low as 14 trees in educational hubs like Gujarat University and nearby areas.
“On LD Engineering College campus, where trunks and branches have become billboards for PGs and private hostels, on an average 100 nails were removed. In three hours, we could cover only 14 trees,” said Sharma.
The group has set a six-month deadline to cover each area of west zone following which it plans to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in Gujarat High Court.